Tom Archdeacon: 'Field of Dreams' a reality for Dragons' Feiner
By Tom Archdeacon
the Dayton Daily News
Thursday, April 03, 2008
It wasn't exactly a heavenly voice coming out of an Iowa cornfield telling Ray Kinsella: "If you build it, HE will come."
It was Beth Feiner, looking out the front window of her Sun Prairie, Wis., home and — seeing not the field where sheep once grazed, but a rocky, overgrown 10-acre expanse — saying: "Hey, that doesn't look so good."
To which her husband Scott — at least this is how youngest son Kevyn remembers the conversation — responded: "So what do you want to do with it?"
Without missing a beat, Beth said: "Let's put a baseball field out there."
So while "Field of Dreams" was built on mystery, Feiner Field was born on the need for a mow job. And both have made for pretty good stories.
While the 1989 movie conjured up the ghosts of long-gone guys like Shoeless Joe Jackson, Beth's ball field? which opened a decade later, can claim to a couple of real-life pros in the Midwest League.
Her son Korey, who twice made it to Triple-A, is now a catcher with the Midwest League's Wisconsin Timber Rattlers.
As for Kevyn — the starting second baseman for the Dayton Dragons — he's the only guy on his team who not only knows how to play the infield, but groom it as well.
"Turning our field into a ball diamond was a lot of work," he said. "It probably took four or five years with all seven of us — Mom and Dad and the five kids — picking up rocks, filling (by the truckload) the low spots, grading, seeding it, doing everything."
And how did it turn out?
Kevyn grabbed my note pad and a pen and sketched out the field: "It's 330 (feet) down the left-field line, 400 to dead center and 290 to right. The left-field foul pole is our old windmill."
The Feiner's curving driveway and the fence that flanks it make up the left-field wall. South Thompson Road — talk about a warning track — signifies a home run in center and right. There's a set of bleachers and even a batting cage in Scott's electrical shop nearby.
The Sun Prairie High freshman team uses it as its practice field, as does an adult baseball team in town. And, of course, there are the myriad pick-up games, many of which involve one Feiner or another.
"We're a baseball family," Beth said. "When I started dating their dad, he was a very dedicated fastpitch player, so everything we did revolved around those games.
"When we started having kids, Scott went from playing ball to being their coach, and then every weekend was spent on a ball field. Kevyn was 5 days old when I took him to his first game."
When Kevyn was about 8, Beth and Scott took their kids to Dyersville, Iowa, to visit the fabled "Field of Dreams" ball diamond.
"I guess that's where I got the idea," said Beth, although she admits, "a lot of people in town probably thought we were crazy when we started it."
Today, though, Feiner Field is a town staple and remains one of Beth's favorite places.
"There's nothing I love more than when the sun is shining, the grass is green, and I hear the ping of the bat," she said by phone as the freshman team warmed up on the field. "When I need a break during the day, I go down to the field, sit in the bleachers and watch whoever is playing."
And this season, she'll get a lot more than bleacher time at the field: "Kevyn used the field the most and also did a lot of the work on it. He was the mower, dragged the infield, did everything."
He was even more adept when he traded those work gloves for his mitt. The 2005 Wisconsin High School Player of the Year, he led his unbeaten team to the state title, signed a letter of intent with Illinois — choosing the Illini over Baylor, Nebraska and Iowa — and then became the Reds' 18th-round pick in the 2005 draft.
"As parents, that was really hard for us at first," Beth said. "You don't know what's best for your child — send them to college or take what could be a golden opportunity. But Kevyn wanted to play (pro) so badly, and then the Reds set aside money for his college education afterward — so we felt better with the decision."
Kevyn and Korey — who was with the Minnesota Twins organization until he was released last month and picked up by Seattle — are so focused on their baseball that they share a condo in Fort Myers, Fla., in January and February just to work out in the sunshine before spring training.
In his first three pro seasons, Kevyn has bounced between the Reds' rookie league clubs in Sarasota, Fla., and Billings, Mont. An elbow injury hampered him last season, but he says he's healthy now.
"Dayton is exactly where I want to be," he said. "This year I just want to get a lot of playing time, put up some good numbers and show (manager Donnie Scott) and the Reds what I can do."
And he can do it all — second base, shortstop, even play outfield:
"I'll do whatever I have to be out there on that field."
Even man the grounds crew?
"Now that," he said with a laugh, "I know I can do."